Good Morning, Gorgeous

   Isabella peeled open one eyelid and winced. “Yeow!”
   The curtains were still drawn. Only a tiny sliver of sunshine cut through the dark room, but the light felt like a knife slashing into her eye. She rolled over to escape the source of her pain and practically bumped noses with the man from the gallery, who was sound asleep next to her.
   Good morning, gorgeous.
   His black hair spilled all over the pillow. Long lashes curved over his high cheekbones and tempted her fingers to run along the sinful brush. Over the stubble darkening his cheeks. Down the angle of his strong jaw. Over his smooth chest to the tempting trail of black hair that disappeared beneath the duvet. Isabella sighed when her eyes fell on the white killjoy.
   Then realized she did not know his name.
   Isabella snapped out of her pornographic haze like a cold bucket of water had been thrown over her and tried to remember how she got here. The gallery, the sexy film, champagne, roses. Dios mío. Getting sick. She bolted upright on the bed, and her bare boobs popped from beneath the comforter.
   Mierda—Shit. What had she done? She did not want to know. Well, not really. She would sneak away before Mr. Tall, Dark, and Dangerous woke up and figure it out later.
   A little voice in her mind chided her, You spent the night with a sex god, and you can’t remember it. Just your luck, isn’t it, Isla?
  She shimmied out from under the duvet and stumbled. How much champagne did she drink? She scanned the clothes scattered around the room. Black shirt, check. Black pants, check. Slut shoes, double-check. No 850€ dress. She ran her hands over her hips to make sure her 15€ thong was still there. Gracias a Dios—Thank God. It was.
   Isabella grabbed the sex god’s shirt and darted out of the room.

JACQUES PRETENDED TO be asleep. He did not want to interrupt the show. If his pretty new friend thought she was being quiet, she must still be drunk. His little fireball was kicking up a racket that could wake the dead. She obviously woke to the shock of her life; her startled panic, not the reaction of someone who slept around. He was no prude, but for some reason, he was glad about that. Although, he was not sure why he decided to bring her with him.
   Oh hell. Yes, he was. She turned him on. Big-time. He spent the entire night at Nico’s opening trying to ignore the sexy lady in black yet riveted to her every move. Even ran interference when several wannabe boyfriends tried to cozy up to her. No surprise there. The lady was sizzling. But what she was putting out did not seem to match her character, and his protective instinct took over. Or was it his possessive instinct? Whatever it was, something about her stirred a need to watch out for her. Underneath her man-killer persona, he sensed goodness and vulnerability. By the time she finally mustered the courage to saunter up to him, he could not resist his curiosity. So here she was. This was going to be fun, and he needed a little fun.
   Jacques suppressed his chuckle while he watched her scurry around the dark room. God Almighty, she had a great body, curvy and full, absolutely perfect. He couldn’t stand bony women and never understood the societal obsession with skinny women. A woman should be lush, like an oasis against the hardness of life. Something soft for a man to sink into. Pity all that gorgeous hair was black, but what a mane. Tousled by sleep, her wild locks curled over her shoulders and covered her breasts as if trying to preserve her modesty. He wanted to reach out, sweep away that hair, and replace it with his hands. His tongue. Beautiful tits. She had beautiful, bouncy tits. When she grabbed his shirt, he knew she was about to bolt, but she was not going anywhere.
   Not until he decided to let her go.

ISABELLA STUMBLED INTO the hallway. The world seemed to tilt beneath her feet while she made her hasty escape. She was disoriented and wobbly, and cursed herself for drinking too much. The hallway was very narrow. Steadying herself with both hands against the walls, she moved quickly, if not gracefully, to the light at the end. Only to step outside and stop dead.
   Water? She looked left, then right, suddenly aware of the rumble and the gentle sway of the floor beneath her feet. ¡Mierda! Forget what she did. What had he done? It was not the booze that was making her wobbly. It was the rocking of a boat. She was on the sex god’s boat!
   Anyone else would be afraid, but not Isabella Rey. The youngest sister of four brothers was pissed off. Her sex god might have a yacht and a scent that could make a woman drool, but he was obviously stupid. Muy estúpido if he thought it was a good idea to call down the wrath of a Spanish woman. Especially one without coffee. She stormed back down the narrow hallway.
   Gorgeous or not, Isabella was going to rip that guy’s head off.

JACQUES SAT UP when his little fireball burst back into the stateroom and glared at him.
   “We’re on a boat. A goddamn boat!”
   “Hope you’ve got your passport, sweet thing, or those guys at customs are going to have a good time with you.”
   “What the hell are you saying? Where are we going?”
   She was screaming and waving her fist. When she raised her arm, his shirt fell open to reveal the luscious curves of her full breasts. Man, she looked pretty in his shirt. Would look even prettier out of it, but his lady was hopping mad. With emotion like that, she would be a hot lover. Not that he knew, but he was not about to tell her that. Her angst was priceless.
   “Don’t worry if you don’t. I know people who know people,” he offered with a nonchalant shrug. “Worst case, I bail you out.”
   “I have my passport, pendejo. In my purse. Where did you put my stuff? I’m leaving. Right now.” She was dashing around the room, looking under the bed, under the chair, and grunting.
   But the best part? She just called him, Jacques Meszaros, an asshole. Fantastic.
   “Afraid not. Unless you’re a really strong swimmer.” He glanced at the clock. “We should be in port in an hour.”
   “What port?”
   “Hercules Port.”
   “In Monaco?”
   “Last I checked. We sailed from Chalon-sur-Saône last night.”
   “I can’t go to Monaco. I have a job.¡Joder!—Fuck!” She thrust her hands into her hair, and the shirt opened wider. “This is a nightmare.”
   “That depends on your perspective.” He leaned over and slipped a cigarette from the pack on the bedside table.
   “You shouldn’t smoke. It’s bad for your health.”
   “That’s pretty funny coming from you.” He blew out a puff of smoke and tossed the matches down next to the pack. “They’re yours.”
   “You still shouldn’t smoke.” She huffed and opened the drapes.
   Jacques brought his hands up to cover his eyes. “Have mercy, sweet thing. After our night, the last thing I need is a blast of morning sunshine.”
   “I’m making you suffer?” She glared. “Good.”    If looks could kill, he would have been dead on the spot. Instead, he was turned on.    “What exactly did we do last night?” she asked and turned to open the window.
   “You don’t remember?”
   She shook her head without turning back. He didn’t say anything, only raised the cigarette to his lips to hide his not-so-subtle amusement. Some might say it was cruel not to let her off the hook. Then again, some might say he was cruel, but playing with her like this was fun.
   She whirled around, raised her hands to the ceiling, and let them fall with a loud clap against her thighs. “¡Chingate!—Fuck you! This is all your fault, and you leave me hanging?”
   “My fault? I’m not the one who drank a magnum of champagne.” Jacques could not believe the fury coming out of this woman. No one ever talked to him like that, and it was hilarious. He sat up, dragged on the cigarette, and ran a hand through his hair, unable to hide his grin.
   “Don’t do that.”
   “Don’t do what?”
   “Sit there looking sexy.” She jerked her chin into the air. “You can’t seduce me. I am not a slut.”
   “I am.” He gave her a lascivious look.
   “You’re incorrigible.”
   “That too.” Smoke escaped his lips while he spoke in his come-hither voice. “Don’t worry, sweet thing. I’m not going to do anything you don’t want me to do.”
   “Really, a come-on? And I am not your ‘sweet thing.’” She pointed an accusing finger at him. A harsh gesture, but she had pretty hands. “You kidnapped me.”
   “Au contraire. You begged me to take you with me.” He let a hint of reprimand slip into his voice. “Given the state you were in after the opening, you’re lucky I did.”
   Her eyes widened. “Pfft. I did not beg you to take me to Monaco.”
   Jacques leaned forward, put his elbows onto his knees, and pointed at her with the hand holding the cigarette. “I wasn’t about to leave you stumbling around the Paris streets dressed to kill and drunk as a skunk,” he announced as if she owed him a favor.
   She glowered, unappeased, and the look made him lean back. This one was fearless. That turned him on more.
   “I have a house in Monaco. You know, a little place to get away. I’m having a small get-together to celebrate my cousin’s success last night. Why don’t you relax and stick around? It’ll be fun. You can call in sick.” He winked. “I’ll write you a note.”
   “Funny. He’s a kidnapper and a comedian.” She gave him a skeptical once-over. “You are Nicolai Stavros’s cousin? The Nicolai Stavros? The famous artist with the fancy gallery and the pretty wife?”
   “Yeah, except she’s not his wife. Not yet. I’m Jacques Meszaros.”
   Her eyes flared wide before she forced a bland expression. “Jacques Meszaros. The CEO of Meszaros Enterprises?”
   “At your service.” Damn, she recognized his name. Now she would get all serious and deferential like they all did. Bye-bye, fun. “Kidding aside, if you really want to go home, I’m not going to force you to stay. I’ll take you to the airport. You can fly home.”
   “How? By flapping my arms? I can’t afford a plane ticket.” She made a short, sharp sound. “But you probably have a private plane, don’t you, Senor Meszaros Enterprises?”
   “Yeah,” he said around a surprised laugh. “But it’s not mine. Darion will let us borrow it, though.”
   “Borrow it. Who the heck is Darion?” She was shouting again, but at least she calmed down enough to stop cursing like a Spanish sailor.
   “Darion LeClair.”
   “The art guru? Jesucristo, Senor Meszaros Enterprises has some fancy connections. My roommate babbles about Darion LeClair all the time like the man’s some kind of god. I suppose you know Emmanuel Macron too?”
   Jacques grinned. “Yeah…”
   She twirled her hand through the air. “Por supuesto.” Of course.
   “…but he’s not invited to the party. The guy’s a stiff.”
   “Well, I’m sure the president of France would be delighted to know that a pillar of the French business community took advantage of an innocent citizen.”
   “What do you mean by that?”
   “Do I really have to spell it out for you?” She swung her hand around the room and down her exposed chest. As soon as she noticed the open shirt, she pulled it closed.
   “I did no such thing.”
   “Don’t act innocent. I woke up naked in your bed.”
   “You were naked because, well, let’s leave it at your dress is being cleaned. It was an alluring dress, but I am not one to take advantage of… How do I say this politely?” He rubbed a hand over his jaw and smirked. “A drunk.”
   She practically lunged at him. “I am not a drunk.”
   “You were last night,” he sang.
   Her head fell forward, and her black hair swung down to hide her face like a veil. “So we didn’t, um, you know.”
   “No, I don’t know. We didn’t what, sweet thing?” he asked, wondering if his little fireball had the courage to look him straight in the eye and say it.
   As if she read his mind, her head snapped up, and her bedroom eyes snared his. “Fuck, okay? We didn’t fuck.”
   Priceless. He shifted his body to accommodate his growing erection. “Sad but true. We did not fuck, but the day is still young.”
   “En tus sueños, pendejo.” In your dreams, asshole.
   “Au contraire encore une fois.” On the contrary once again. “From the look on your face, I would say it’s in your dreams.”
   She reached over and threw a pillow at him.
   Jacques jerked his arm away to move the cigarette out of the line of fire. “Fiery, aren’t you? Be careful. You’ll set the boat on fire, and I’m not up for a morning swim.”
   “Then you shouldn’t smoke.”
   “Once again, they’re your cigarettes.”
   She let out a sigh. “I bought them last night. I don’t even smoke. I was just feeling sorry for myself and being stupid.”
   The sudden sadness in her voice snapped him right out of his playful mood. “Why?”
   “I don’t want to talk about it.”
   “Okay.” For now. “Do you want to talk about breakfast? I’m starved, and I know the perfect remedy for a hangover.” He snuffed the cigarette and reached for the duvet.
   “What the hell are you doing?” Her hand moved to hold it down, and her eyes opened wide. So tempting, surrounded by long lashes and smeared eyeliner.
   “I’m getting up. We won’t get anything to eat if I lie here all day.”
   Jacques yanked the blanket back and stood, completely naked. He had a hard-on, but he was not shy, and he had a nice dick. He laughed when her mouth dropped open and strolled toward the bathroom to give her a nice long view of his bare ass.
   Another pillow hit the wall as he stepped through the door.

ISABELLA ALMOST FELL over. When she registered that she was alone, she did. Collapsed onto the end of the bed and stared straight up, stunned, blinking, and trying to clear away the vision of Jacques Meszaros sauntering across the room au naturel. When Craig said have some fun, she was pretty sure he did not mean this.
  Leave right now, er, the minute we make port. As soon as she had the thought, the other voice in the back of her mind, the naughty voice, whispered, But where’s the fun in that?
   So what if she got drunk and wandered off to another country with a guy she didn’t know. He didn’t look threatening. Well, he did, actually, but not in the psycho-killer kind of way. Anyway, he was no ordinary guy. He was Jacques Meszaros. A person did not have to know much about the corporate world to know that name.
   Jacque Meszaros was a big-time philanthropist. A grant from the Meszaros Foundation provided funding to alleviate the financial burden on several of her patients. She had referred people to this man for help many times, even if she was only today seeing his face. On top of that, he took care of her when she was sick, and she wasn’t exactly in a prison. She was on a yacht sailing to Monaco for a party with a bunch of famous gazillionaires.
   Isabella relaxed and looked at the crumpled duvet that replaced that big lump of male seduction. The image of her sexy-as-sin kidnapper combing his beautiful hand through his magnificent hair started a flood of dirty thoughts running through her head. She kicked her legs in the air and rolled into the warm spot Senor Meszaros Enterprises left on the bed. Maybe she should stick around for a while and see what happened.
   Like Jacques said, it would be fun.

​​​​The hopeless run from destiny; the hopeful embrace it.

Doms are not princes and Jacques Meszaros certainly isn't one. Or is he? A business tycoon, a philanthropist, and a sexual Dominant, Jacques makes the rules but doesn't always abide them. On a whim, he offers Isabella Rey a soiree in paradise. What he finds when they arrive is a destiny foretold long ago in the words of a gypsy.

Two women live inside Isabella Rey. Her angel goes to church every Sunday, helps the sick, and is fiercely loyal to family. Her devil lives in the shadows. Isabella is not looking for love, but a life-threatening twist of fate spurs her to allow her devil a moment in the sun.

Jacques wants forever. Forever is the one thing Isabella believes she cannot give. But paradise, once tasted, is not easily foregone.

Angel or devil? Dom or prince? Destiny awaits. Will theirs be a paradise lost or found?

an excerpt from paradise


jillian verne Contemporary Romance - tHE ORDER SERIES - THE LAKE SERIES

Copyright 2021. Jillian Verne. All rights reserved.


​​Jillian Verne

contemporary romance